Authorities in India have approved the death penalty for any individual who is found guilty of raping girls under the age of 12.
Reports say the controversial order by India’s cabinet will remain in effect for six months from president’s approval, or until parliament votes it into law.
The order came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, held an emergency meeting in response to nationwide outrage in the wake of a series of rape cases.
Government officials also revealed that the controversial executive order, or ordinance, amends the criminal law to also include more drastic punishment for convicted rapists of girls below the age of 16.
Kirti Singh, a women’s right activist, however says capital punishment is unlikely to act as a deterrent in such cases.
“Studies have shown that death penalty does not act as a deterrent. Our experience shows the same. We are against death penalty,” she told Al Jazeera from New Delhi.
“[In the recent child rape cases], there was a complete breakdown of law and order. It wasn’t as if just because death penalty doesn’t exist, there was this break down.
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“Some people in India act in with impunity, thinking that they won’t be punished. The certainty of the punishment, rather than the severity of it, should be made sure.”
The order is coming weeks after a court in India’s troubled Jammu and Kashmir state charged five men including a retired government official over the rape and murder of an 8-year-old Muslim girl.
According to a court filling, the retired official identified as Sanji Ram had ordered his nephew and a policeman to kidnap the girl, Asifa, in January to terrorise members of her nomadic Bakerwal community into leaving Kathua district in the mainly Hindu Jammu division.
A charge sheet made public by the police also revealed that after her kidnap, the girl was heavily sedated, kept in a Hindu temple, and gang raped by at least three men over the course of four days in mid-January.
Her strangled body was later found in the forest near the temple with one of the three suspected rapists said to be a policeman.
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